If you’re pregnant and work in the state of Louisiana, you may have a right to maternity leave under federal and Louisiana state laws.
FMLA and The Louisiana Fair Employment Practices Act
FMLA is a federal law that applies to certain employers and employees. If you’ve worked for a company for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to when your leave begins, you are entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This applies to both mothers and fathers. One of the most common reasons FMLA does not apply to workers is that you may be employed by a smaller company because FMLA only applies to employees who work for an employer with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of your work site. If your employer is smaller than this, they are not obligated under law to provide any leave for you after the birth of your child.
In this situation, however, if you work in Louisiana, you may be entitled to time off under the Louisiana Fair Employment Practices Act (FEP). The FEP requires that employers give pregnant women having babies at least 6 weeks of unpaid leave (and up to 4 months if you experience medical complications that require it, e.g. bed rest during your pregnancy or postpartum medical issues). Technically. the law is requiring that employers treat pregnancy and childbirth as a “disability” for which employers are also required to give employees time off. However, pregnant employees are treated as a separate category and must be given leave even if similar leaves are not given to other employees with temporary disabilities.
Am I Eligible for Leave under FEP?
To be eligible for leave under FEP, you must work for an employer that has employed more than 25 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or prior calendar year. However, since this is based on pregnancy, only mothers (and not fathers, nor adoptive parents) are eligible for this type of leave. In other words, if you don't qualify for FMLA, there is no paternity leave for employees working in Louisiana.
Will I Receive Any Pay During My Leave?
Unfortunately, unless your employer offers paid benefits on a voluntary basis, they are under no legal obligation to pay you any part of your salary during your maternity leave. The U.S. is one of two industrialized countries in the world that do not offer any paid leave, and Louisiana is not one of the few states that offer any wage coverage during maternity leave, either. You can take out a short-term disability insurance policy to cover your lost wages during pregnancy and post-partum recovery but to qualify, you typically must do so before you become pregnant.
For tips on how to survive an unpaid maternity leave, please read our suggestions here.
In some cases, your employer may require that you use other forms of paid leave (e.g. sick days, vacation days or other banks of paid-time-off) during your maternity leave. Under the law, you are required to exhaust these paid days before your unpaid leave begins.
What Notice and Forms Do I Need to Fill Out?
Assuming you do not give birth early on an emergency or unpredictable basis, you should endeavor to give our employer 30 days notice in written form. If you cannot do this for emergency reasons, you should tell your supervisor as soon as possible.
If you have a normal pregnancy and birth, you do not need to provide a doctor’s certification for your leave. If, however, you require a longer than 6 weeks leave due to medical complications, you will need to provide a medical certification to your employer documenting this need.
What If I Qualify for Leave under FEP and FMLA?
Your two leave periods run concurrently; in other words, you only receive a maximum of 12 weeks under FMLA and a maximum of 4 months if you experience medical complications. if you have a normal pregnancy and birth, then your maximum leave period if you qualify for both FMLA and leave under FEP is 12 weeks.
What If I Have Further Complaints or Issues?
We are not attorneys and have merely tried to summarize publicly available information regarding this sometimes confusing topic to help women in the workplace. You can consult Louisiana’s Division of Administration’s Office of Human Resources for further information (including their latest document here) for further information.